In 1607 the first permanent English settlement was established, called Jamestowne. I can’t imagine how hard life was for those first 104 colonists but with today’s archaeological discoveries we can get an idea. Visiting Jamestown Settlement in Williamsburg, VA can give you a more in depth and immersive experience of what it must of have been like in 1607 and the years that followed. You can see (a reproduction of) history!
When you first arrive at Jamestown Settlement and get your ticket (get the package that lets you into the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown as well and save on tickets!) I highly recommend watching their intro video, 1607: A Nation Takes Root which shows every 30 minutes. It gives you the story of the Virginia Company, which sponsored the trip and the colony.
The video also tells you about the English colonists, the Powhatan Indiana and the arrival of the first Africans. So much history, although brief, in just a quick video. Worth watching though, especially if you like history.
Afterwards there are tours you can take that will cover all the living history areas or you can go pretty much anywhere you want to explore on your own. You can check out the galleries and see tons of artifacts, take a trip through the Powhatan Village, check out the boats that were used to get the Colonists to Jamestown from England, well replicas anyway or see a reproduction of Jamestown Settlement!
We went straight outside to the Powhatan Village where my kids promptly took notes about the houses there. Houses isn’t the right word but hut isn’t either. They look like huts from the outside, but inside there was a LOT of room and they were very organized. I loved it of course!
It was only one room but they utilized every part of it beautifully so it didn’t look or feel crowded, just cozy. A open hatch in the ceiling directly above their cooking fire helped keep the smoke out, but the hatch was at an angle so rain couldn’t get it and could also be closed if needed.
The Gentleman noticed their “doors” were more like our window blinds but thicker. If they closed them all up I imagine it could be pretty warm inside.
They hung tools and food from the upper storage “shelves” and even the walls held tools and food. Along the outer edges of the one room homes there were bunks for everyone to sleep. You could possible sleep 2 in each bunk but I think they were meant for just one person.
My kids decided one of the larger ones was the perfect place to take notes on the insides, so we were there for about 25 minutes studying this home. We generally allow them to lead which usually means we skip a few things and spent extra time at others hehe. In this case we saw a couple homes quickly, and spent a lot of time in the larger one and a little in one that was set up in a weird way.
When you walked in you had a small area but then some walls were set up that led right and then left like a mini maze but with only one way to go so not a real maze…there was a school group so I couldn’t see what was there but besides what looked like a bed. I think it was a bedroom…or something like it. Then they saw someone in costume using an axe on a long stick…and we spent 30 minutes there.
They learned he was making a bow, he showed them how it was shot, denied them an opportunity to shoot it and I had to explain insurance and liability to them. Though now they want bows…They asked a lot of questions before we moved on to the boats. Ships. Not boats although they weren’t very big to be honest. The Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery to be exact.
Unless they didn’t make them as big as they were I feel really bad for those men who came over. The largest one we were allowed to go on had bigger area in the lowest section but we were not allowed in there much to the Gentleman’s disappointment. The kitchen was tiny! I think you could cook from the bunk…and the men in those days were shorter than me I think…I wouldn’t be comfortable in those bunks and I am 5’3″!
The kids did get to pretend to fire a cannon and even learned how to properly do so. The Diva especially loved doing that! I think she would have made a good pirate…is that bad? Nah. Means she is going to be a strong leader! When we were done exploring that ship we moved on to a smaller one.
There wasn’t a “below” we were allowed to visit and not much on the deck either, but it was still neat. When we disembarked, (learned some lingo too!) we met a sailor, the navigator to be exact. I am not sure that was his exact title but he did know how to steer the ship and tell which way they needed to go….and he taught us how to use their compass rose and how they let other people know which direction they were going so they would never get too far off course. It was very confusing but kind of genius too.
After our nautical lesson we decided to eat lunch. We brought our lunch and they had this nice area with benches near restrooms that was close to the ship area. So if you bring a lunch you can chill and eat there if you want, or they have benches sort of all over between the main areas.
There is also a cafe inside the main building. We found out about that on our way out though or we probably would have tried it out! We usually bring a lunch though…kids are sooo picky.
It was finally time to check out the Jamestown Settlement Fort area and my kids were super excited. We were at the Historic Jamestowne just the day before so they were anxious to see it recreated when we only saw parts and pictures. It did not disappoint! It was amazing and felt like we were really there!
Well in some areas because they did have some areas blocked off so you could only look. I mean I understand since people like to touch and they had a house furnished with equipment and such so they just didn’t let anyone in but left doors open. You could see but not get close enough to touch. It was a nice compromise.
We of course asked if they knew the location where they found Jane, (the Gentleman and I had that idea actually) but the people working didn’t know. You could watch a real black smith, try on armor and helmets, and check out the defenses of the Fort.
My favorite part was seeing the church as it would have been during the time. In Historic Jamestown a lot of it is missing and the archaeologists are hard at work on the floor inside so we didn’t see any pews or anything hehe.
There were people in costume from the time, but sad to say no one was in character. I am not sure if they are not supposed to be or were just not going to answer our questions in character. We were a little disappointed in that but again, not sure if that was the norm or not.
After looking, trying things, playing and taking it all in it was time to head out…but first the galleries! We were not allowed to take any pictures in there except for a couple of spots…but honestly we would have forgotten to anyway. There was a wealth of information about Pocahontas in her special exhibit, Pocahontas Imagined which runs until January 28th 2018.
The exhibit shows her as a real Powhatan girl and also shows her life with the colonists. Clothes, portraits, memorabilia, ads that featured her and her name and even interactive areas for kids. I highly recommend checking this out!
Again, we couldn’t take pictures but it was an amazing exhibit to even get to see. My daughter especially loved it and wants to learn as much as possible about Pocahontas.
The other gallery has a ton of history, small theaters, 3D structures and artifacts all showing the impact of European colonization on the Powhatan Indiana Culture, the origins of the first known Africans in Virginia, and of course on Jamestown’s beginnings as a business venture.
Expansive gallery exhibits explore Jamestown’s beginnings as a business venture, the impact of European colonization on the Powhatan Indian culture, and the origins of the first known Africans in Virginia. Hundreds of objects from 17th-century Europe and Africa and Virginia archaeological artifacts are integrated into the gallery setting, which features three-dimensional structures and small theaters.
Check out how much fun we had through our pictures!
As you can see there is a LOT to see, do and learn here and there is something for everyone! The gift store has some amazing things in it as well so be sure to check it out and grab some pretty unique souvenirs. If you live in or near VA you have to go check it out and if you don’t then I highly recommend making a special trip to learn about the countries beginnings in a super fun and educational way!
Everyone wants to go back when we visit VA again…which we will be doing for sure! I would recommend setting aside a good 3 or more hours unless your kids are like mine…then plan on being there the whole day lol. That didn’t bother us actually because we were just as fascinated as they were!
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